IN MARCH 1981, I DELIVERED A comedy routine cum keynote address at a convention of Yippies. I asked the audience a rhetorical question: "How would you like to be a Secret Service agent guarding Ronald Reagan, knowing that his vice president, George Bush, is the former head of the CIA?" Satire would soon be outdistanced by reality: At the end of the month, John Hinckley shot the president, hoping to impress the actress Jodie Foster and take her bowling.
On April 2, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner quoted a dispatch from the New Solidarity International Press Service, an outfit run by followers of the unlovable conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche. "A group of terrorists and drug traffickers linked to Playboy magazine," it said, "met in New York City's Greenwich Village area and publicly discussed an assassination of President Ronald Reagan and Vice-President George Bush. The meeting, convened by the Yippie organization, featured former Playboy editor Paul Krassner and numerous individuals associated with High Times magazine, Hustler magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times."
I was scheduled to perform stand-up at Budd Friedman's Improvisation Comedy Club in Hollywood the next month, and Friedman had asked me to try to get some advance publicity. "Paul," he told me after the report appeared, "that's not exactly what I meant."
My show went fine, but in July the LaRouchies escalated the attack by publishing a whole dossier on me. "In the early 1950s," it claimed, "Paul Krassner was recruited to the stable of pornographers and 'social satirists' created and directed by the British Intelligence's chief brainwashing facility, the Tavistock Institute, to deride and destroy laws and institutions of morality and human decency." (For the record, I was never in England.)
Although LaRouche and I both taught at the Free University of New York in 1966, we didn't cross paths. Even then, he had his devoted fans: One student there told me that "LaRouche presented the most credible, most articulate, and best-argued version of Marxist economics that I ever heard." My own class was titled "Journalism and Satire and How to Tell the Difference."
LAROUCHE IS A major character in Operation Chaos, the British journalist Matthew Sweet's account of some American deserters who made their way to Stockholm at the height of the Vietnam War. But LaRouche wasn't a deserter himself, and he didn't live in Sweden--he was a management consultant turned Trotskyist turned cult leader...